Does this sound familiar to you? You are caught in the moment, you feel like you know what you need to do to run your business now but you also know that things will need to change in order for you to be able to grow in the way you want to.
Maybe you feel as though the creative magic and 'all hands on deck' mentality that got you here is losing it's charm as you start to bring more team members in? Perhaps you have a sense that you are probably not being as efficient as you could be.
I'm guessing you feel a certain loyalty towards the way of working that has got you to this point? I'd even go as far as to suggest that you might fear you'll lose something of what you really are if you dare to change a winning formula.
What I told you it was actually fairly easy to feel confident that you know exactly what to do to take your business to the next level? That you could be absolutely clear on where you want to take the business and why. Simply put, what if you felt like you had A PLAN?
Making an impact on the world is largely to do with knowing where best to put your energy. So when I get the opportunity to do something that has a potential impact on not just my business but those of my clients and peers I grab it with both hands. Last week I was thrilled to be invited to an event run by The Entrepreneurs Network, a think tank set up to give entrepreneurs, small businesses and the self-employed a greater collective voice. It was called ‘A Parliament Fit for Entrepreneurs?’ and aimed to understand what the government needs to do to support entrepreneurs better.
I was excited to go, and at the time the discussion was absorbing and inspiring. The overwhelming message from the panel, made up of Baroness Susan Kramer, Andrew Dixon and Gilian Keegan MP was that the way to change government policy was to ‘get involved’. Lobby, speak to your MP, play your part in discussion groups and forums. ‘Great’ I thought, I’m here at this event, getting involved, changing things – that’s a start.
A week today I attended an event called Be More Gazelle - How to grow your business at speed...
I’ll start with a confession… before this event I had no idea what a Gazelle was. Obviously I know it's a kind of deer like mammal but in business terms, not a clue! It turns out I probably should have done because it’s exactly the kind of companies I work with. According to The FT it's an extremely fast growing company (20% + YOY) that maintains consistent momentum.
Are you a secret Gazelle? I can’t be the only person that doesn’t know what one is?!
The event was run by Upstream – a fab initiative that's aiming to redress the silicon roundabout East-West imbalance and make Hammersmith and Fulham the best place to do business in Europe. What an exciting vision! Are you in the West of London? Look it up and get involved. There were far too many business advisors there and not enough actual businesses and I'd love to feel as though I was part of a growing and thriving community of great businesses.
OK so this is the second time I’ve written about this but the more clients I work with and the more I learn, the more I think this message bears repeating. For all the advice there is out there about how to run a business, there are really only 5 very basic things that every business needs to do well. And yet, I find very few businesses that have all of these nailed.
I’ve worked in, and with, businesses of all sizes. From multi billion pound blue chips that exist in hundreds of countries to kitchen table enterprises that are just getting off the ground and literally everything in between. And only a handful have all 5 of these things down pat. They all do some of these things, and some of them do all of them to some extent but none do all of them, all of the time.
I thought when I started working with small businesses and start ups that they would be hugely different to the big corporates. And they are, massively different –
How are you feeling today? Let me guess... It's the second week back after the New Year, the Christmas tree has come down and the routine you thought you craved post Christmas is starting to feel a bit, well, routine. Already. The resolutions or intentions you set are starting to feel a bit too hard.
I like to call this the 'doubt dip'. The initial wave of enthusiasm you surfed in on is starting to ebb away as the reality of your calendar and your inbox take over again. AND, you haven't yet got far enough into your plan to give you the momentum to keep going. Your energy levels start to dip and you begin to doubt whether you're ever going to get there. Another few half hearted attempts await you before you give up altogether along with everyone else on the 17th Jan. The same goes for business, getting it right in the first few weeks are key to feeling like you've had a fast start.
Want to know how to be a better leader? Know this - leadership is everything you do.
At a recent panel discussion I went to, the question was asked - how do I find time to lead my team? When do I lead in between all of the other priorities I have? And the answer? Leadership is everything you do. Your team will look to you for cues and clues on exactly how you want your business to run. Every conversation you have with them or someone else, you are showing them how people have conversations in your business. Every decision you make, you are showing them how decisions are made and what the priorities are in your business. The way you deal with customers and suppliers is the way that customers and suppliers are dealt with in your business.
As business owners, we're so used to working in the business, managing the next big thing, fixing issues, thinking of ways to drive sales, managing the admin and so on that often it feels incredibly indulgent to just sit and think for a while. Sit in front of a coach though, especially one you've paid to spend time with, and you've really very little choice.
If 'sitting and thinking' feels as though it lacks focus for you, my simple structure for doing your own review of things should work a treat. I've been using it recently to help small business owners review their year in business and the feedback has been incredible. It's disarmingly simple but incredibly effective.
"The bit no-one talks about is the emotional side of running your own business" - Steph Douglas, Don't Buy Her Flowers. A quote from a talk I attended at Stylist Live last Friday - three successful female business owners, on stage talking about how to start a business in an industry that ostensibly you know nothing about.
All three, very impressive women, all three, disarmingly, well, female. Maybe it was the audience (at least 99% women), maybe it was the event (a fashion and lifestyle event), it was probably the brief (make your story accessible) but they were unashamedly and wonderfully open about what it means to be a woman in business.
Last week I attended a LinkedIn Content Marketing Masterclass at LinkedIn Towers in Holborn. It was a quick fire hour with huge amounts of information from two very knowledgeable and passionate LinkedIn employees – Katrina Neal and Richard Sullivan.
Although towards the end I got the impression that it was aimed at B2B with a not insignificant marketing spend (well there’s no such thing as a free lunch right!?), I think a lot of the insights I gained are still well worth sharing.
The one thing I hear time and time again from business owners both new and old, startup or established, big or small is a feeling of overwhelm. A feeling of doing too much, being in too many meetings, trying to succeed on too many fronts.
It's a common issue, and there's a common cause. Complexity is the downfall of many a business and business leader. In the pursuit of success we do as many things as we can to get the results we want. We launch as many products as possible through as many channels as we can, create as many connections as possible and try and be everywhere at once. It's a kind of commercial spread betting and in the start up stage, it kind of makes sense.
I’ve written about the sleep inducing powers of talking about systems and process before. It's something I've encountered the whole of my career - tell someone they need process in their business and their eyes glaze over. Ask them what they want to fix though, or what's holding them back, and they get a whole lot more animated. In 90% of those conversations, the answer to their problems or the thing that will get them unstuck is... you guessed it... a process.
There are three key processes that every business needs. The don’t need to take up huge amounts of time and if you implement and follow these three processes consistently, not only will you have a more profitable and sustainable business, you will also feel more sane and have more time for the good stuff like strategy and, well, the odd day off perhaps!
For a business to be sustainable it needs to make profit.
And so as your business starts to grow, the traditional start up model of 'sales at any cost' starts to become irrelevant.
Structure, process, systems. Three words that all have the tendency to make people’s eyes glaze over. But what if they’re exactly what you need to create the sustainable, profitable business you know you deserve? If you’ve done the start-up bit and you’re consistently making sales you will start to feel as though you’ve 'got a business’, but if you’re also still stuck in every bit of detail and you know it couldn’t survive without you then you've also got a millstone.
Whether I'm coaching business leaders or mums returning to work, I see one thing standing in people's way time and time again and that's FEAR.
It can very often be disguised as something else but it doesn't take much digging to find out what's at the root of it. Take indecision for example, what tends to be driving that is a need to ensure that we've chosen the right answer. Look at it the other way, and it's fear of choosing the wrong one. When you're running a small business (or a big one) your decisions matter exponentially, and it's quite likely that you'll have bitter experience of getting it wrong. As your business starts to grow the risks become greater and so does the fear.
6 GREAT THINGS THAT HAPPENED WHEN I UNPLUGGED FOR 3 WEEKS
Overall, the best thing about unplugging for three weeks was the sense of freedom and time back. A life unplugged is one without wormholes or competition you didn't plan to engage in and without opinions you didn't seek and it's delightful. As the curious soul that I am though, I really put some effort into observing what I was getting out of being unplugged - I had the time after all! Here are the best things about it...
NB: although I unplugged for almost three weeks, I did still drop in once a day to check emails and so on. I run my own business, unplugging completely for three weeks would have been irresponsible and stupid! I also checked social media notifications every couple of days to make sure I hadn't missed a question or a significant mention.
I didn't miss it
Not one bit! I really thought I would, but I found plenty of things to do instead. I found myself reaching for my phone repeatedly, but more out of habit than will and I soon found ways to get over that. I left my phone at home when we went out or kept it in my handbag.
I felt happier and more content
The online world, and by that I probably mean social media to a large extent, can be completely exhausting. I'm convinced that largely that's because it often feels like one huge competition. Whether it's business results or babies we're all in competition to portray the happiest, most successful, most beautiful version of ourselves. Even when we're complaining, we have to be the funniest or angriest! When I sat and looked around the pool on holiday at all the real, non airbrushed people, I couldn't see a single one that made me feel bad to the extent that a single post on instagram can.
I was also able to reach a certain sort of stability and inner peace that I haven't felt for a long time. I think when you're getting constant, and hugely varied input, it's difficult, and tiring, to maintain a stable mindset.
I didn't miss anything important
The addictive nature of digital is in the psychology of random rewards. It's what keeps compulsive gamblers coming back for more. That same compulsion has us checking our phones 20 times an hour to see if it's provided anything juicy! And when we're in that mental state, even auntie Joan's new puppy can give us a little bit of what we need.
The beauty of checking in every day or couple of days, and on my own terms was that I was able to override the 'random' part of the equation and take control. I could also see, real time, that I wasn't actually missing anything. I didn't look at any feeds on social media, just the notifications. And almost all of them were things I could choose not to engage with.
I've spent a great deal of this morning writing emails to apologise for the delay in replying or for my radio silence. Not a single person has questioned me or taken it as a negative. In a world where we know that people are constantly online, it's easy to have unreasonable expectations of ourselves and others in terms of how quickly we should expect a response. As I said earlier, I didn't let anyone know I was going off grid, I just disappeared!
I learned a lot about boundaries
I've had some time to think about what could have brought on that sense of burnout that I felt three weeks ago and I've realised it has a lot to do with boundaries, or more accurately the blurring of them. When I worked for someone else, I could do all the obvious things like arrange cover and let my contacts know I was going to be away but I also had permission to actively choose the life side of the work life equation for a fixed period of time. That came with it's own burdens... such as 'the fear', but it was nice to feel I could walk away for a while.
When you run a business, especially one that largely exists online, there's nowhere to hide. You can't shut your doors and go home. The only personal/work boundaries are the ones we set ourselves, and when we're encouraged to bring ourselves into the equation as much as possible, there really isn't much latitude. I've decided to keep my social media notifications switched off for now!
I hope I've inspired you to try and give yourself some mental space away from the online world. It really is a great thing to do to regain perspective and feel, well, better really! Normal service will be resumed next week!
Get in touch - let me know how you feel about being online and on social media. I'd love to hear from you - email@example.com. And if you'd like to chat, how about booking a 30 minute call using the button below:
I wrote a post last week asking working mothers what they struggle with most. It got nearly 200 responses, I couldn't keep up. As the responses started to roll in and I got chance to read them all, I noticed they fell into three main themes: mum guilt, time and focus, finances and childcare. It's time to drop the excuses ladies, if you want to take control of your career, you need to FIND A WAY.
Impatience, that familiar mix of slight excitement tinged with frustration. It creates an energy that has nowhere to go, and if you don’t learn to recognise it and manage it, it can be pretty damaging to your success.
It’s definitely my Achilles heel and it has led to several changes in direction for my business as, when things don’t work straight away, I have a tendency to want to move straight on to the next big idea. It's also led to blogs, web copy and Facebook posts being published with glaring typos even though I'm the worlds biggest spelling and grammar pedant - all because I'm too impatient to properly proof read things. For me, broadly, I think my impatience is driven by a need for recognition and results. I’m not very good at plugging away and sticking at things for the long term if I’m not 100% sure they’re going to work out.....
If you're thinking about hiring a coach but don't know where to start, then you're not alone. The coaching landscape is incredibly confusing and extremely competitive. I posted on Facebook this week to do a bit of research on how people choose coaches and it garnered nearly 40 comments, many of which had various different descriptions of what coaching even is. It also attracted several other coaches trying to sell their services!
One of the main issues is that coaching seems to be a bit of a buzz word at the moment. The problem with that is, when people realise that they can add credibility to their offering by adding a word like coach, it becomes misappropriated time and time again. When everyone’s a coach, no one is a coach. I imagine it won’t be long before McDonalds rename their servers food selection coaches.
So if you think you might benefit from the help of a coach, but you don't know where to start, let me help you to cut through some of the crap!
July and August are difficult months from the point of view of how we feel about work. They're months of closing things down. Working in specific chunks of time before holidays, yours or other people's, or before the schools break up. This sort of mood tends to bleed into our own thinking whether we're constricted by holiday dates or not. There's a general feeling of waiting until everything gets going again in September. The sense of urgency that working in specific chunks of time can, at times, be hugely helpful, but there's something about this time of year specifically that just doesn't have that vibe.
This week, I wanted to write in a bit more detail about an area that I really struggled with in particular on this holiday, and that's self doubt. It’s something I help people with every day but that doesn’t mean I’m immune to it myself and when it gets me, it really does it’s worst. I've questioned whether I should even write this post but I see so many women struggling with this every day that I really wanted to share my thoughts.
Holiday… Celebrate? How to manage holiday stress and actually relax!
I’ve just got back from a 10 day break in Majorca. Big picture, it was bliss. 10 days of late starts, long breakfasts, sunny, breezy boat watching from the balcony and afternoons spent by the pool. What could be better? Well to start off with, my head could have been in a much better place. If you, like me, feel as though holiday stress, and the pressure to have an instahappy time makes it feel far from relaxing at times then at least take comfort in the fact that we are not alone – a quick google search on vacation stress returned 179 million results!